Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Audley End, Saffron Walden

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have long been on my bucket list so when it was announced they would play at Audley End it seemed like an opportunity not to miss.

The show is part of Heritage Live, an annual series of shows that brings top artists to the most beautiful stately homes in the country. This years shows also include The Who, Robbie Williams and Tom Jones at venues such as Kenwood House, Sandringham and Englefield House.

The weather was not looking good with rain forecast for most of the day. I arrived late afternoon and expected the usual travel chaos to get on site. However, I was pleasantly surprised that despite being busy, everything was very well organised, and parking was painless. Having anticipated the rain, the organisers had laid a metal walkway connecting the car park to the arena.

Just after 5:30pm, Tom entered the stage to kick of the show. Dressed in a long coat and dark glasses he dominates the stage as he performs Shout It Out. The set is a mix of Tom’s new songs and Kasabian classis. Bouncing across the stage he declares to the audience “I’m not dead yet!” and Shoot The Runner starts. Halfway thought he engages with the wet audience telling them that “the Rain is coming down but who gives a fuck” before asking them to show him their hands. No One needs asking twice as there’s a sea of hands in the air.
“Your Empire, but who’s fucking Empire was it in the first place? Mine”, yells Tom as the band launch into Empire. After an hour the set is brought to a close with the crowd pleaser, I’m On Fire.

I was really impressed by his performance. It was a great way to get the evening off to a flying start. There about 45 minute wait for the next act, The Zutons so it’s time to retreat to the bar in the VIP area to sample the Heritage IPA (brewed for Heritage Live events) and to shelter from the rain. Beside the bar is another covered area where a string Quartet, The Stringfellows are entertaining the punters with their take on classic rock hits.

I’m only familiar with Liverpool’s The Zutons 2004 album Who Killed the Zutons? Since then, the band have completely passed me by. With a new album, it’s perhaps time to rediscover them. A thumping Zuton Fever opened their set which had the crowd jumping about. Dirty Dancehall quickly followed reminded me just how good The Zutons are. Dave McCabe belted thought the old favourite with a new songs thrown in for good measure. For me the standout performance goes to saxophonist and vocalist Abi Harding who seemed like a force of nature.

You would expect set-closer Valerie to get the biggest response, but it was catchy Remember Me that got the biggest reaction from the audience.

There’s another 45 minute wait for the main act. The rain is by now falling steadily and the temperature has dropped dramatically. What should be a summers evening now feels more like November. Again, I take sanctuary in the beer tent but everyone else has the same idea so it’s rammed. The thought of a cold beer on a cold night had lost its appeal so I went off in search of a coffee to warm up.

Huge cheers erupted from the audience the moment Noel Gallagher walks on stage. One by one he’s followed by his band. Jokingly Noel says the band members “Thanks for coming” and “Nice of you to show up”, which gets laughs from the crowd. “This is the High Flying Birds” and without hesitation we’re straight into Pretty Boy from the new album Council Skies which sounds amazing. We are treated to other songs from the album, Council skies, Open the Door, See What You Find and Easy Now. At the end Noel says they are all from the new album. “Did you buy it?” he asks a punter at the front. “Now we’re going right back” he says as the band starts You know We Can’t go Back. Further High Flying Birds hits, AKA… What A Life, In The Heat Of The Moment follow. Dead In The Water is an unexpected welcome addition to the set which goes down well with the crowd.

The rain has stepped up a gear and is verging on torrential as Noel says “So, this is Essex is it? How’s the rain affecting your fake tan?”. Noel pointed at a man in the audience and says “Are you Rylan? You look like Rylan. I fucking love him!”

The second half of the set consists of Oasis classics and B-sides which gets the biggest reaction from the audience. The Importance Of Being Idle, The Masterplan, Half The World Away are all greeted with huge applause. Calls from the audience for Wonderwall fall on deaf ears. Finally, the set is brought to a close with Little By Little.

A few minutes later a cover of Bob Dylan’s Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) opens the encores, followed by a heart-wrenching Live Forever and bringing the day to a thrilling finale is the crowd pleaser Don’t Look Back In Anger.

I’m cold and wet as I squelch back to the car, but it’s been a brilliant evening and one not to miss. Whether the brother Gallagher will bury their differences and answer the calls to reform Oasis remains to be seen. For the time being Noel Gallagher’s High flying Birds is the
closest you are going to get.

Photos and Words by Mark Stimpson 

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Philip Goddard

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